December 22, 2015
There has been much talk in the library world and beyond about generations. We are attuned to generational differences when it comes to our patrons, how they learn and use libraries, how they navigate the overloaded information landscape. In the hushes of our faculty meetings and hallways, however, we sometimes talk about millennials and Gen Y with an air of dismay, ambivalence, or even disdain when it comes to their digital, phone-obsessed, tech-loving ways.
So, it comes as little surprise to me that I tend to be met with a certain measure of dismissiveness when I use the term “next-generation librarian” to describe the kind of leaders I want to attract and develop at The Collective (a new kind of professional development event I co-founded with Corey Halaychik) and to see thriving in academic libraries.
First, people often assume that next-generation has to do with youth; age, however, is not a prerequisite for being awesome, embracing change, or thinking forward. Next-generation pertains to the next stage of development or version of our profession; there’s no expiration date on participation save an individuals’ decision to assign themselves one.
Second, there is an unhealthy and prejudicial stereotype that those who embrace technology wholesale do not appreciate the analog or the “traditional” library values. I’m not sure if this comes from a lack of exposure to tech-savvy librarians or a fear-based tactic to defend a Luddite’s value in the institution, but we should celebrate how mad tech skillz and core librarian values are not an either-or. Indeed, we when choose to hire candidates who have both, the rising tide lifts all boats and nobody drowns.
At our best, I have seen how we can celebrate how much next-gen librarians improve our services, creativity, and research outputs. At our worst, we dismiss them as somehow not “real” librarians and stagnate our organizational growth and learning.
So, I’m on a crusade to redefine what we mean by next-generation. The next-generation librarian is a concept that transcends the traditional generational boundary of tabloid research and listicles. Not defined by birth year, next-generation is about a mindset, a disposition, an outlook.